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A 600 square feet space at the rear of an 1890s brownstone, in the historic district of Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn. The yard was completely overrun by Japanese knotweed which had smothered a peach tree, and several shrub roses, and had been untouched for almost two decades. The brief was simple but challenging. The family of three desired an oasis to escape from the hustle of urban life. It had to be different from the traditional Brooklyn backyard, modern. A place to dine with friends, to lounge by a fire, to sit back in the sun, with a "patch" of grass for their toddler to play on, and not a whole lot of maintenance. And though they liked their neighbors, privacy from the surrounding brownstones was important.


The knotweed infestation had to be thoroughly removed; re-grading the pitch of the yard away from the house so water wouldn't continue to pool at the foundation was equally important. A French drain was installed and zinc weed barriers placed along the perimeter. Using curves and angles, and judicious space planning, the design seeked to suggest that the space was wider and longer than it actually was. The chain link fence was disguised with horizontal slats to imply length and width; the perimeter planting was layered to add depth and blur the boundary. A platform deck was floated over the concrete pad just outside the backdoor, kitted out with a retractable canopy, a custom daybed/bench and dining table.


A heat tolerant river birch was planted off the deck to provide additional shade and act as a transition to the oval shaped, bijou lawn. Behind a screen of buddleia, a sunken seating area was dug, with a floor of pebbles. Here, a couple of Adirondack chairs, a coffee table and a chimenea completed a private conversation area. Two mirrors were hung on the back fence behind a number of wavy miscanthus to further suggest depth. As a final punctuation, a “royal purple” smokebush was planted in the far corner on the diagonal from the deck to further draw the eye.    


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